The 73rd running of the Indian Derby (Grade 1), sponsored by Signature, is likely to attract a record crowd to the Mahalaxmi racecourse today. Though there are 13 in the fray, all eyes will be on Be Safe who is likely to go to the post as a half-money favourite.
Be Safe is owned by Dr Ramaswamy and trained by Malesh Narredu. Dr Ramaswamy, who had to wait for over two decades to lead in his first Derby winner (Amazing Bay, 1996) now holds the record for owning maximum Indian Derby winners (7), while for trainer Narredu who, as jockey, had won this race only once astride Indictment will be looking for his first Derby victory as trainer.
Be Safe with jockey Suraj Narredu during December’s Indian 2000 Guineas race. Pic/Shadab Khan
Be Safe has yet to go over the Derby trip of mile-and-a-half, and though his style of running has left no room for doubt that he will be able to tackle this trip, his rivals would like to take their chance believing in the famous line, "the only certainty in horse racing is uncertainty."
"Of course, I have butterflies in my stomach, I confess I am nervous," Malesh Narredu told mid-day on the eve of the Derby, "but that is only natural. When you have two of best horses going into the Derby, you want to make sure they both live up to their reputation and put up a great show."
Besides Be Safe, Narredu also trains Quasar, a multiple Derby winner who only last week added the Golconda Derby to his illustrious list of exploits.
"Be Safe is a great horse, and the Derby is the Derby is the race he must win to prove it," continued Narredu, "few people may know this but Dr Ramaswamy has given me complete freedom so far, he has always said, 'he is your horse, do what you think is right for him', and I will be happy to see Be Safe winning the Derby because I would like to live up to that trust."
"We will be happy if we beat Be Safe," says Pesi Shroff, indirectly admitting it will be an uphill task. Shroff, who had won the coveted race a record eight times as a jockey but only once as trainer (Jacqueline, 2010), has three runners in the Derby fray: Tiger Top, Aquamarine and Illidan. Tiger Top is owned by builder Haresh Mehta in partnership with stock broker Rakesh Jhunjhunwalla and businessman Shapoor Mistry, while Illidan is owned by Farouq Rattonsey, whose family has been one of the luckiest in the Derby history, having won two back-to-back Derbies with Hotstepper (2008) & Antonios (2009).
Jaydev Mody, who owns Quasar, also trained by Narredu, believes Be Safe will be difficult to beat because he is well rested and perfectly tuned for the occasion, whereas Quasar has traveled from Pune to Kolkata to Hyderabad where he picked up all the three regional Derbies.
In the Derby edition of popular race book, Cole, trainer Narendra Lagad describes Be Safe as "head & shoulders" above the rest, while Imtiaz Sait, who has His Highness in the Derby fray, feels the Derby is in safe keeping of the favourite, the only danger, if any, could be Tiger Tops, he feels.
"This is the best horse I have ridden," Suraj Narredu, who will ride Be Safe, says, "he does have to prove himself over the extra two furlongs, and I believe he can do it."
The past and present chairmen of the club both agree on one thing that Be Safe will win the Derby. "Be Safe should win," says present chairman K N Dhunjibhoy, while former chairman Vivek Jain terms Be Safe as a virtual certainty.
"I hope both my runners, Be Safe and Quasar, finish one-two in the Derby," trainer Malesh Narredu said when contacted for a quote by mid-day on the eve of the Derby, "they are both good horses, and they have given proof of their class."
First race at 1 pm.
Antiquity Blue Cup (Class III; 1600m)
Satellite 1, Centaurus 2, Shining Path 3.
White Mischief Cup (Class II; 1000m)
Senorita Evita 1, Spider Man 2, Ravello 3.
Four Seasons Cup (For 3y, maidens; 1600m)
Sacred Fire 1, Warpath 2, Geromino 3.
Royal Challenge Cup - Div II (Class V; 1200m)
Grey Mist 1, Rock The Turf 2, Super Bolt 3.
United Spirits Challenge (Class II; 1400m)
Polydences 1, Fibonacci Sequence 2, Your Royal Majesty 3.
McDowell's No.1 Platinum Trophy (Class IV; 2400m)
Midnight Dancer 1, Saporelli 2, Bethpage 3.
B K Rattonsey Memorial Maiden Multi-Million (For 3y, maidens; 1200m)
Stateria 1, Intelligence 2, Colombiana 3.
McDowell Signature Indian Derby Gr 1 (For 4y; 2400m)
Be Safe 1, Quasar 2, Tiger Tops 3.
Royal Challenge Cup - Div I (Class V; 1200m)
Aleta, Earl Grey 2, Blackbean 3.
Outstanding: Be Safe (8-1)
Best bet: Satellite (1-5)
Good bet: Senorita Evita (2-8)
Chance bet: Polydences (5-4)
Upsets: Dhishkyon (4-9), Bold Appeal (7-2) & Fajr (9-16)
Super jackpot poo: 4,5,6,7,8,9
Jackpot pool: I - 3,4,5,6,7; II - 5,6,7,8,9
Treble pool: I - 2,3,4; II - 6,7,8; III - 7,8,9
Tanala pool: All races
1. Be Safe 57 Suraj Narredu 1
2. Bold Majesty 57 David Allan 9
3. Congressional 57 PS Chouhan 8
4. His Highness 57 S Zervan 4
5. Illidan 57 A Sandesh 2
6. Quasar 57 YS Srinath 7
7. Shivalik Showers 57 Neeraj Rawal 5
8. Shivalik Storm 57 Darren Williams 10
9. The General 57 Yash Narredu 13
10. Top Commander 57 I Pasha 3
11. Aquamarine 55.5 DK Ashish 11
12. Tatiana 55.5 Dashrath Singh 12
13. Tiger Tops 55.5 Colm O'Donoghue 6
z Tops 3: Be Safe 1, Quasar 2, Tiger